Monday, February 20, 2012

The Right Thing To Do

Click here, then read.

I know I’m not supposed to be shopping at Walmart. The employees there don’t make squat, they can’t unionize to make more squat, and if you believe in shopping local, you’d have to travel to China to buy most of what Walmart sells…right? I mean, only poor people shop at Walmart. Rich, educated people are supposed to stay out of there to protest the oppressive working conditions and keep their own dollars “in the community”.

Well, I’m educated but I’m not rich. I haven’t had a raise in five years but my insurance costs a lot more, and so does food and gas. I am a one-income family with three mouths to feed, so I shop at Walmart.

Today I had a $50 gift card leftover from Christmas (Thanks Mom!) burning a hole in my pocket. That’s a lot of toilet paper.

To be perfectly honest, I had been to Walmart not long ago to use said gift card, but the check-out lady that time told me I’d pulled it out too late to count towards that purchase: “You need to show gift cards right away. We can’t take them after everything has been rung up.” Feeling stymied but wanting to play by the rules, I tucked my gift card away to use the next time, which happened to be today.

Oh Lord, I went to town—it’s not often that a girl like me gets loosed in a place like Walmart with fifty bucks to burn. I knew the toilet paper would be this shopping spree’s crowning glory, so I took my time pushing my cart down the good-memory aisles: Makeup and Hair, Fishing, Candy. I scolded myself for lingering too long in these frivolous places before taking a half-hour to select a prudent gift for me (a new birdfeeder) and then moving on to Cleaning, then exorbitantly priced Produce, and then to check-out.

I knew from my last experience to present my gift card at the start of check-out, so I presented it alright, like a peacock in heat. I practically did a rap dance showcasing my fifty dollar gift card: here it is, you know it, I have it, you want it. I stopped short of Eddie Murphy getting his ice cream…stopped short of framing my rightness and hanging it on the register.

When the lady was done ringing me up, she announced a price that was obviously fifty dollars too high.

“You forgot to include my gift card,” I said, just knowing what she would say next.

“I’m sorry, but you have to present your gift card at the beginning. I’ve already rung you up; you can use your card the next time.”

I’m sure I stared at her; what are eyes for? I’m sure I tried to hide my disappointment. But I had to rise to the occasion of Everywoman Shopper; anything less would have been unforgivable. “I showed you the gift card at the beginning and it’s been out here since you started ringing me up. I want to use this gift card now.”

I tapped it.

The check-out lady was new at checking out, and I knew she was flustered. There were people behind me, and I was frustrated, but more to the point, I was right.
It’s moments like these that usher the devil in. If you can survive them without making an error, tag, you’re God.

The lady called her manager, a very tall and physically intimidating woman. Without another word, this new woman started taking things out of my basket and ringing them up again. “What are you doing?” I asked, basking in the general ignorance of myself. “Like I already paid for this stuff. Are you ringing it up again?”

“No,” the woman said. “I’m subtracting purchases up to fifty dollars; you won’t be charged for them. Here’s your new slip.”

I watched as she took all the high-priced items out of my cart (my new birdfeeder, fifty pounds of bird food, my carton of blueberries) then subtracted them, then put them back into my cart. I left Walmart feeling like I had stolen something.

Something went wrong in there, I thought. You’re supposed to go in and get stuff for cheap, no problem. What’s the matter with you?

I went home for the unpacking and putting-away, which usually calms me, but still I felt strange. I usually know my good intentions, followed through with ease and letting fate take care of the rest, but today…well…going through my purse, I found the fifty dollar gift card that had not been counted at check-out.

I picked it up and looked at its greenness, so Walmarty and Christmassy at the same time. It shouted “Fifty Free Dollars!” at my face.

I studied it, and I mean I really looked at it, before deciding I can’t use you again, even though I didn’t really use you before. I snipped it apart over the garbage can, so it couldn't tempt another wannabe saint.


  1. I didn't expect this story to end in a feminist statement. So, what are you going to do with the card?

  2. I've never heard of having to process a gift card at the start of the transaction.

    I wonder if they had an "aha" moment after you left and realized you still had the card :)

  3. 'like a peacock in heat. I practically did a rap dance showcasing my fifty dollar gift card: here it is, you know it, I have it, you want it. I stopped short of Eddie Murphy getting his ice cream' - :D . And yes, that's how these big companies like to make us feel they're doing us a big favour with those coupons and what not! A good read, and good points made.